Pakistan's Shias 'facing increasing violence'
Rise in attacks signals worsening persecution of minorities
Increasing attacks on Shia communities underlines Pakistan's status as one of the world's most dangerous countries for religious minorities, an international rights group says in a report released on Thursday.
The report from Minority Rights Group International (MRG) comes a few days after 24 Shia pilgrims were killed in a bomb and gun attack in Taftan, Balochistan near the Iranian border.
In the report titled “Everything has shattered -- rising levels of violence against Shias in Pakistan,” MRG details a disturbing level and nature of violence against Shia Muslims, including the ethnically distinct Persian-speaking Hazara minority, at the hands of Sunni militant groups in Pakistan.
The report was based on interviews with minority rights activists.
Last year was the bloodiest for the country's Shias, who make up around 20 percent of Pakistan’s 180 million people, with some 700 murdered in targeted attacks and over 1,000 injured, MRG said.
It branded the Pakistani government’s response to the attacks woefully inadequate.
“The government must send a clear message that these kind of attacks are unacceptable and will not go unpunished,' said Carl Soderbergh, MRG's Director of Policy and Communications.
Most attacks have been carried out by three militant groups, Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan (SPP), the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ) and the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan, all of which have openly called for the destruction of Shia Muslims, he said.
Another group, the Jaish-ul-Islam admitted responsibility for the Taftan attack.
The report notes a methodical increase in attacks on the Shia Hazara community and Shia professionals and officials.
The response from the Shia community was to stage a huge rally, led by the Majlis Wahdat-ul-Muslimeen (MWM) a Shia political party, in Karachi on June 1 to protest what they called “Shia genocide.”
Despite assurances to the protesters by authorities that they would crack down on banned anti-Shia groups nothing has been done yet, says Ali Ahmer, a MWM spokesman.
“LeJ, SSP and other banned groups are operating with complete impunity. Dozens of Shia professionals, including doctors, lawyers, professors, and policemen, have been murdered in recent months,” Ahmer said.
“Four to five Shias are gunned down in Karachi on daily basis,” he said.
Dr Hassan Ali, a Karachi-based ophthalmologist, was a recent victim. Ali, 40, was shot and killed as he left work at the city’s Kutiyana Eye Hospital on May 29.
“Being a Shia was his only crime,” said Tahira, his sister-in-law, who only gave the one name.
Jibran Nasir, a politician, lawyer and peace activist said there is one overriding problem that is encouraging attacks on minorities, including Christians.
“Every single time an attack takes place, the ignorance of the masses confirms to not only the government but also to the terrorists that religious minorities do not have popular support and that we as a society are as polarized as one can be.
“There is no united sentiment against terrorism in this country and in fact we are more interested in debating if Shias, because of their beliefs, actually provoke attacks on themselves or not,” Nasir said.
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